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What does FTA consider to be “functional” landscaping?

FTA recognizes that landscaping is an integral and functional element of many transit facilities.  For example, landscaping can be used to aid in the absorption or drainage of storm water, prevention of erosion, support of structures on a steep grade, minimization of noise impacts, protection of habitat,  provision of shade in hot climates, channeling of pedestrian or vehicle traffic, definition of publicly accessible and inaccessible areas, and many other purposes.

If my project was funded prior to December 4, 2015, and it includes the cost of non-functional landscaping, incorporating art, or an artist on the design team, can the transit agency still include these items in the project?

Yes.  The prohibition on FTA funds being used to pay for the incremental costs of incorporating art or non-functional landscaping into facilities, including the costs of an artist on a design team, applies only to grants (including full funding grant agreements) entered into on or after December 4, 2015, regardless of the year the funds were made available. This prohibition also includes grant amendments; open grants may not be amended to include these prohibited costs.

Has the law changed regarding art in public transit?

Yes.  Prior to 2013, federal transit law permitted the use of FTA grant funds for costs associated with including art in public transportation projects. This was one of several types of projects termed “transit enhancements” for which transit agencies were required to spend a certain amount of their FTA formula grant funds.

Can you provide some examples of project costs that would be allowed and those that would not be allowed?

Not Allowed

Speakers in a transit station, intended to amplify announcements and/or provide background sound (e.g. white noise, music)

Commissioning an original musical composition to be played through speakers in the facility
Arranging and installing colorful or decorative tiles that are available commercially

The incremental cost of hiring an artist to develop the design or arrange the tiles in such a way as to serve a primarily aesthetic purpose

Visually appealing signage directing passengers within or around the facility

Can we install customized tiles in the entrance to our facility that showcase our city’s history and beauty, since the facility was designed to reflect our regional geography/culture?

Yes, in this example, the tiles would serve a functional purpose by protecting the interior walls or floors of the facility from deterioration. Hence, the cost of acquiring, arranging, and installing commercially available tiles that reflect local designs or aesthetics (e.g. a “southwestern” pattern) would be eligible for FTA grant funding.

Aside from the cost to include an artist on a design team, how does FTA define the incremental costs of incorporating art or non-functional landscaping into a facility?

To begin with, it is important to understand the difference between the concepts of “art” and “design.” FTA expects all transit projects to be designed and built by professional architects, engineers, planners, interior and landscape design professionals, and those in other professional trades.  The building and surrounding landscape designs should incorporate aesthetic considerations, including but not limited to decisions regarding the use of light, shape, color, materials, the use of space, and the historic setting to achieve a functional and welcoming public transit facility.

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